SC Meeting: February 1, 2022

At the February 1 School Committee Meeting there was a discussion of the Pollard Middle School Improvement Plan, the Proposed 2022-2023 School Calendar, and an Update on Health & Safety.


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School Committee & Superintendent Comments


Michael O'Brien is a member of the Housing Plan Working Group. He informed the School Committee that a public forum on housing needs, concerns, and future planning was recently held on zoom. A recording of the discussion is available for families to listen to if interested.


Many thanks to the DPW for their work to remove the snow and get schools and the town ready for school on Monday.



Pollard Middle School Improvement Plan


Pollard Principal Tamatha Bibbo, Math Curriculum Coordinator Tammy Ghizzoni, ELA Curriculum Coordinator Elizabeth Welburn, and School Council Student Member Max presented an update on the Pollard Middle School Improvement Plan.


Some highlights of the current school programming are:

  • Data Science 1 and 2

  • Chinese Culture and Perspectives and Connection Culture Course

  • Literacy Support in 7 and 8

  • LBC ELA

  • Transition Program: for kids who have been out of school for an extended amount of time

  • ASL Elective for 2022-2023

  • Spanish 7A-Introduction to Spanish (for kids who have had limited Spanish experience prior to Pollard)

  • Launching Scholars Program

  • TV News

  • Clubs and Activities – new ones have been added – skiing is back

  • Lots of new board games for students to play after school.

Data Science 1 and 2

The Math Curriculum has been expanded to include two elective courses in Data Science. The ability to understand, analyze, and interpret data accurately is very important and ties in with the goals of the Portrait of a Needham Graduate. These classes focus on:

  • Introductions to Spreadsheets and Big Data

  • Story Telling

  • Ethics

  • Creating Catchy Headlines

  • Diverse Speakers: Parents and Community Members – data scientists, researchers, etc. speak to students via Zoom.

  • Field Trip to Mitchell School – took a number set and made it tangible for younger students

In Data Science 1, students have to do a project on a certain data set. They create a visual, create a catchy headline and visuals to support the data, and write a paragraph to represent the data.

In Data Science 2, kids go more in-depth into the data set and use Tableau to represent it.


8th Grade ELA Elective Unit

ELA Staff are excited to expand the 8th grade ELA elective unit this spring. Students rank their preferences of five choices:

  • Fractured Fairy Tales

  • High Fantasy

  • What are you supposed to think?

  • Windows and Mirrors – YA Literature

  • Serial Podcast

93% of kids got their first or second choice, 7% got their third choice. No one got a fourth or fifth choice.


Courses vary in content, genre, learning environment, and end product. Students are drivers of their own learning and able to pursue their own curiosity. Students are getting similar experiences even though they are doing different things. It is all standards based. Students will receive grades for the same standards, but the activities look different. The goal is to give students choice and get students excited about learning by giving them a voice in what they are learning about. This also can give students exposure to a different ELA teacher than their primary teacher. It would be wonderful to integrate this kind of learning model in more ways throughout the year, however the scheduling is complex.


Other Activities

Restorative Justice Circles are being used with small clusters and the hope is that they will continue to be opened up to more and more students/adults at Pollard. It has been a very positive experience.


The Club Fair happens in October. Students express interest in the ones that they might be interested in joining. Teachers volunteer to lead the clubs. Students come up with ideas. Some clubs last year to year. Others might be discontinued or tweaked if there is lack of interest.



Proposed 2022-2023 School Calendar


Highlights:

  • August 31st first day for students

  • June 15th last day for students (with no snow days)

  • Juneteenth is a part of the calendar

  • June 4th Graduation

  • Professional development for staff included in the calendar

Under consideration for future years: Can professional development happen on more Wednesdays (early release) for all buildings? Considerations would be time and learning, transportation, and nutrition services. Families might push back on increasing the number of early release Wednesdays due to child care concerns.



Update on Health & Safety


Needham is starting a new COVID-19 Diagnostic Testing Program this week. At home rapid test kits will be given out to staff/families who opt in. They should be used twice a week at home.


There will also be a new in-school symptomatic testing program – families opt in to allow students to be tested for COVID-19 if they are not feeling well while at school. This is only for students who develop new symptoms while at school. Students who are feeling unwell before school should stay home.

  • 71% of staff have opted in to the testing program

  • 80% of families have opted in to symptomatic testing

  • 50% of families have opted in to at-home testing

When can masks be lifted? It is too early to make this decision. Numbers do seem to be headed in the right direction and the Health & Safety Committee will continue to reassess this regularly.



Action Items (details can be found in the SC packet):


Middle School and High School Program Studies – Approved unanimously


There was some discussion among school committee members about grade requirements for certain courses. Are students getting shut out of classes because of their grades? What messages are being received by families who do not get recommended for upper level courses and those who do? Some kids have the economic means that allow their students to do better in classes (paying for outside tutoring, Russian Math, etc) and others do not. Does this mean they do not belong in the class?


Articles Proposed for the Annual May 2022 Town Meeting

  • Article for Emory Grover Construction Funds – recommendation to endorse was approved unanimously

  • Article for funds for Heating upgrades at Hillside – recommendation to endorse was approved unanimously

Transportation Fees, Athletic Fees, Pre-School Community Education Fees – Approved by a four member majority (three members abstained due to potential conflict of interest).


The next School Committee meeting is February 15, 2022